Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. The NBA Playoffs are upon us, and it's time for my first round picks. Today I'll be picking who I think takes home all of the first round series, and as the first round progresses I'll be making picks for the winners of some of the key games. Today I'll also let you know who I expect to see in each of the Conference Finals, as well as the NBA Finals. On top of that, I'll be letting you know who I see winning it all this year. If there are any questions or topic requests leave them below in the comments and I'll respond either directly or with an in depth article as soon as I see them. Also, make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Houston Rockets:
This series is one that I did not see coming. Until Jimmy Butler went down for seventeen games with a knee injury, the Wolves were the third seed in the Western Conference, and they could have easily advanced two rounds in the Playoffs. Now, though, they are facing the best team in basketball. The Houston Rockets are almost unbeatable when fully healthy, and barring any injuries, I don't see this series going any farther than five games. The Timberwolves don't match up exceptionally well with Houston, since Andrew Wiggins will have to guard either James Harden, Chris Paul, or Eric Gordon. Jimmy Butler, one of the games best defenders, will try to take one of those three out of the game (most likely Harden), but then Wiggins lack of defensive effort could be exploited by the other two. In general, the Timberwolves are not a good defensive team, and that is not good since they'll be facing the games best offense. I give Minnesota one game since Karl Anthony Towns is an unguardable freak, and Jimmy Butler is a top ten player in the league. Other than that, though, if everyone stays healthy this series is definitely not going seven games, six games is a stretch, and I think five is most likely. Houston moves on.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz:
This should be a really good series. The Jazz were expected by many to go nowhere this year after losing Gordon Hayward to the Celtics in free agency, but the emergence of Donovan Mitchell and great defensive play of Rudy Gobert have gotten the team this far. The Thunder are a disappointment so far, as they've been inconsistent and complicit in the stat padding of Russell Westbrook. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George have been overrated this year, and OKC's big three have not worked very well together. It's Playoff time now, and this big three has much more experience than the Utah Jazz. They also have home court advantage. I think that this series goes seven games, ultimately ending in a Thunder advancement. My personal distaste for OKC can't out way their experience advantage over the Jazz, and now that Westbrook has his triple double season locked in, there's less reason for him to blow games for the team with selfish play down the stretch. Thunder in seven, in a very, very, very close series.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans:
I love Anthony Davis, and what he has done in the absence of Boogie Cousins is really impressive. That isn't going to change how I see this series though, and honestly I'm having trouble not predicting sweep. The Trail Blazers are entering this series not far removed from a thirteen game winning streak, and the combo of C.J. McCollum and the most underrated player in the NBA (a.k.a. Damien Lillard, a.k.a. Dame D.O.L.L.A., a.k.a. the most clutch player behind only Kyrie Irving in the game right now) is a bad mismatch for the Pelicans. I'll call this a five game series since Anthony Davis can take over on any given night, but really Portland shouldn't be losing more than one game in this series. I like Portland and I think if they weren't stuck in the Western Conference, they would be in the NBA Finals.
Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs:
Just to start this off, I'm predicting this series with the assumption that Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard will both be out with injuries for the entire series. With that being said, the Warriors should make short work of the Spurs. This is the least amount of firepower Greg Popovich has had to work with in a very long time, and against a super team comprised of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, Pop doesn't have much of a chance. I think that this series goes five games, six games maximum and that's only if one of the Warriors big three is bothered by an injury. The Warriors should easily move on from this round and then have Curry ready for their second series.
Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards:
Grab your brooms everybody because we have a sweep. The Raptors will make short work of this Wizards team, who have basically been without a 100% healthy John Wall all season. Bradley Beal can only do so much against the duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and the Wizards really don't have much help after that. Toronto's one seed this season should give them a great advantage as this should be easy work for them, and then give them a nice period of rest before what will be a difficult next series against most likely the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers:
This series has me really excited. Victor Oladipo is always fun to watch, but he isn't the only reason I'm excited about this one. LeBron James always plays close games against Indiana, and although Paul George has always been part of the reason why those games have been close, there has always been someone else that's provided entertainment in this mini rivalry. That's right, Lance Stephenson is back with the Pacers, and his antics always reach their highest level when he's playing LeBron James. I cannot wait to see how the Cavs react to what will be a chippy series, and if their bench and other role players will hold their own. The Cavs really are not talented enough to have huge expectations this year, but this series in particular will help underline this teams Playoff capabilities. If the Cavs play well, expectations for a run to the Finals will rise, while if the role players struggle, Cleveland could be a popular pick to lose in the next round. I have Cleveland winning this series in six games because I think some of the Playoff inexperience on the Cavs could cost them a game, and also I just really want to see as much LeBron vs. Lance as I can.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat:
The Miami Heat are being way overlooked in this series. The main talking point of the last week or so has been how the Sixers are poised to make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, and possibly the NBA Finals, but I'm saying everyone needs to slow down. The Sixers may be on a sixteen game winning streak currently, but they've really only beaten two or three teams that aren't actively tanking. Their win streak is a smoke screen for how good this team actually is. The Miami Heat are not nearly as talented as the Sixers, but head coach Eric Spoelstra is really good at exploiting mismatches. While Joel Embiid is out with an orbital fracture expect Miami to use Hassan Whiteside to his full extent, and even when Joel comes back Miami will try and take advantage of Philly's middle of the pack defense. Also, having a guy like Dwayne Wade on your team for clutch moments never hurts. Overall I expect Philadelphia to take this series, but I don't see them dominating the way that everyone else does. There could definitely be some blowouts, but I like this series going six games. If the Sixers do destroy Miami though, then I'll reevaluate them as the rest of the Playoffs move along.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks:
This series is going to be really interesting since it'll be a healthy squad lead by the Greek Freak taking on the crippled, but surviving, Celtics. Brad Stevens is working wonders in Boston right now, as his team is still winning games despite having lost another huge player on their roster, Kyrie Irving. The Celtics are not going to be easy to beat, but Milwaukee's struggles of late do not inspire confidence. I think that the Bucks need to play better as a team and not wholly rely on Giannis to carry the team throughout the Playoffs. Personally, I don't see the Bucks not having to rely on Giannis a great deal though, and since the Celtics are an incredible defensive team, I see Boston taking this series in seven. It'll be close, but Brad Stevens should find ways to contain Antetokounmpo, giving Boston the series.
Eastern Conference Finals Prediction:
The way that the bracket is structured makes one half of this prediction easy--the Philadelphia 76ers will be in the Eastern Conference Finals. They play Miami in the first round, and then either Boston (who is crippled) or the Bucks (who they just smacked by almost 40 points) in the second, so although I don't think Philly is as good as everyone is making them out to be, the weak Eastern Conference will aid their advancement. On the other side of things I have the Cavaliers taking on the Raptors in the second round, and the winner of that series takes on Philly. Toronto against Cleveland is a really hard series to pick since Toronto owns the season series, but it is yet to be seen how Cleveland's young lineup will fair in Playoff basketball. As of right now, I cannot pick against LeBron James, so I have the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers playing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. At that point LeBron and his squad would have proven that they are good enough to come out of the East, so I'd take them over Philly. If the Cavs are good enough to beat the Raptors, which I think they are, then I can't see them losing to the Sixers. LeBron would not be held back from his eighth straight Finals appearance if he had already made it that far. If this Sixers vs. Cavs matchup does end up taking place, then expect Cleveland to win.
Western Conference Finals Prediction:
I, along with the majority of basketball fans, can see no other matchup than what was seen as the inevitable at the beginning of the season--Rockets vs. Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. If I'm right and the Warriors have to take on the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round, I expect Curry to be back and handle business. If he isn't back though, or is available to play but isn't himself, than Portland does have a shot at an upset. As of right now I cannot see that happening though, so the question, Warriors or Rockets, remains. There are two scenarios I'll go over in this series, and they result in two different picks. One, Stephen Curry is back and fully healthy from his injury. In that case, I can't pick against the most dominant team this league has seen in the last decade. I would take the Warriors to win in a seven game series. The other possibility is the opposite of this, which is that Steph Curry is not healthy, and not able to play like himself. When Curry isn't himself, the Warriors aren't the team that we all think of. Their three point percentage drops drastically, and as a team they look disconnected. This then leads me to easily pick the Rockets to win the Western Conference Finals. Also, if Curry isn't healthy, I'd take Houston to win in six games, ending the series on the Warriors home court. If I had to predict one of these scenarios, based on recent history I'd think that the second is more likely to occur. Coming back from injury, Curry usually isn't himself, especially in a much more physical climate which is Playoff basketball. Since I think that Curry won't be 100%, I'm taking the Houston Rockets to move on to the NBA Finals.
NBA Finals Prediction:
Houston in five. That's all that really needs to be said. This Rockets team is worlds better than Cleveland, and my prediction that Cleveland even makes the Finals is suspect since it is entirely possible that the Cavs new, young, inexperienced roster looks like garbage in these Playoffs. The smartest Eastern Conference Finals prediction would be the Toronto Raptors playing the 76ers, and then one of those two teams moving on to the Finals. If either of those cases came to futurition though, I'd still take Houston to win in five games. The Western Conference is worlds better than the East, and I think that it'll really show this year in the Finals. Even if it isn't the Rockets, and the Warriors make the Finals, I'd say it's a four or five game series. For the purpose of wrapping up my way to early Finals prediction though, I'm taking the Houston Rockets to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, becoming the 2018 NBA Champions.
High School Senior from Connecticut obsessed with sports stats, facts, and management.